THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One member of the local hip hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.
The Physics had the best Seattle hip hop album of 2013 — by this website’s estimation, anyway — with Digital Wildlife. And that record wouldn’t have come together as well as it did without the musical talents of the group’s two vocalists: real-life couple Malice (given name: Crystal) and Mario Sweet. Their R&B harmonies with The Physics generally act as subtle but vital backdrops to the crew’s deep hip hop roots, and the natural chemistry they share with rappers Thig Nat and Monk Wordsmith, and producer/rapper Justo, makes for the most appealing collaborations in Seattle rap.
Malice and Mario stepped out on their own with 2011′s Happy 2 Year, a celebration of both their love for music and second wedding anniversary. H2Y was followed in July of 2013 by Enjoy Like Love, an upbeat collection of original songs unapologetically inspired by R&B/soul from the ’80s and ’90s, as well as pop culture touchstones from those decades. For those of us born in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Enjoy Like Love feels like an audio love letter written just for us.
Malice and Mario jumped on THE SIX to answer questions about their backgrounds in music, what it’s like performing and touring as The Physics, and what their musical futures might hold.
Moor Gang/Cloud Nice affiliate Steezie Nasa dropped a brand new seven-piece three days ago. The usual Moor suspects have their fingerprints all over this one: MackNed, Rob Skeetz, et al. And Caz Greez lends bars to one track, thereby closing the circle on two of the Town’s best rap collectives.
The Bar’s Prometheus Brown and Bambu are featured on Power Struggle’s latest drop, “A Round For My Friends”. Nomi (frontman MC for PS) links fundamentally/organizationally with his Beatrock Music brethren. “Fight music ’til there’s nothing left to fight about,” raps Pro Brown. This is fist up, marching music.
Mike Champoux raps and produces, probably more successfully at the latter than the former. Still, though, his passion for the art form is clear. “All I Need” is a love letter to music and an outtake from his upcoming album, Michael, due in April.
Tyrone, the working class hero, dropped this single back in November. Shout-out to him for linking me to it in the New Year, though. “Work Boots” forgoes the space oddities, triple beam dreams, and hyperbolic monetary chamber rap of contemporary hip hop, for the always grueling, rarely rewarding rhythm of hard labor. The best thing about this joint is how Tyrone bridges the seemingly unrelated divide between all manners of hustle.
206UP.COM’s The TrackMeet is a regular feature here on the blog that pits three relatively new or unknown local hip hop artists against each other in a battle-of-the-songs style competition. If you’re a reader, it’s easy to participate: Just listen to the three featured tracks below and then vote for your favorite in the online poll at the bottom of the post. Voting lasts for one week. Each winning entrant will be featured on an upcoming TrackMeet Mixtape (the first edition of which you can download here). If you’re an artist looking to submit for an upcoming competition, click here for submission guidelines.
Somehow we’ve been off The TrackMeet for a minute. And by “a minute” I mean since last July. SMH. Anyway, submissions have yet to dry up because everyone and their grandmother’s bridge partner is trying to rap in the Town nowadays. Below are three such rappers trying to get a buzz. They put in the work and now it’s your turn, dear readers, to click, listen and vote! As always, links to download the tracks are provided.
LANE 1: “Wasted Time” – Mojo Barnes
LANE 2: “Summertime Shoppin” – Coop
LANE 3: “Untouchable” – Loc Saint
NEW MUSIC: “Bout That Action (Beast Mode Remix)” / “This Ain’t A Seahawks Anthem” – Spekulation (feat. Marshawn Lynch, Deion Sanders & Prometheus Brown)
The Super Bowl story that’s not really a story: Marshawn Lynch and his (now trademarked) understated press conference appearances. Somewhere in here lives a thought piece on Marshawn’s brilliant upending of our country’s expectations of how Black athletes should present themselves to the public — the counterpoint to Richard Sherman’s outspoken cries of excellence. Why in God’s name aren’t we wringing our hands over this?!
Town rapper and producer Spekulation gives us the soundtrack for our rumination: “Bout That Action (Beast Mode Remix)” subverts our complex reactions to Marshawn’s curious behavior by employing a singular telling statement made by the man himself. The simple repetition of his sampled words, “Bout that action, boss”, are matched by the equally rudimentary drum pattern of the song, thereby distilling Lynch’s message to its fundamental constituent elements: He is, simply, ’bout that action, boss. And we should be, too. God bless everyone. And God bless the United States of Super Bowl America.
Update, 1.30.14, 4:45pm PST:
And the inevitable remix to the remix: “This Ain’t A Seahawks Anthem”, featuring Prometheus Brown rapping from what sounds like a busy sports bar lobby or the non-business end of his cell phone.
The rap internet’s been buzzing the last few days about Raz Simone’s don’t-call-it-a-signing creative partnership with Lyhor Cohen’s new label, 300. That’s pretty big news for a Town rapper who’s seemingly been on the cusp of stardom for a couple of years now. Here’s hoping Raz continues to be the vital counterpoint to Seattle’s current national — and international — hip hop envoy, you-know-who.
Raz’s team recently made his latest single, “Don’t Shine”, available for free download. Click here for that. And click play below if you missed the accompanying video which dropped a couple weeks back.
In case you missed the video for Mo’ Money’s striver’s anthem “Off The Block” from a couple weeks back, here it is again for your viewing pleasure. The track appears on the rapper’s new Everybody Needs A Lil Mo’ Money, available for free at DatPiff.
Mo’ Money is part of the LakeHouse Entertainment collective, a ragtag bunch of MCs, producers and skaters who ran a delightfully low-budget shop out of a lake-front home that has since gone the way of the mortgage foreclosed. Shout-out to RoofDogg who has generously kept 206UP in the loop about LakeHouse Ent’s whereabouts and who ensures the New Year will bring a grip of new music and videos from the crew.
There has been a recent movement in the Town toward documenting, both aurally and visually, the rap-related things happening inside the bounds of this fair area code. From the good folks at Mad NW who are responsible for the excellent local rap documentary The Otherside, to blogger Jack Devo’s online vault of Seattle music rarities, and finally to the burgeoning Do The Math podcast, created and hosted by 206 hip hop superfan Deven Morgan.
Meant to be a StoryCorps of sorts strictly for the Seattle rap nerd set, Deven is both honest and earnest in his love for Town hip hop. Episode 2 features the vital producer Jake One waxing nostalgic about creating records in the former heyday of Seattle hip hop. Do The Math seeks to highlight the so-called “second wave” of Seattle rap, the time and artists just after Sir Mix-A-Lot’s apex, but before the rise of Blue Scholars and Macklemore. These are the typically forgotten artists, best represented by the loose collective known as Tribal Music whose Do The Math compilation album, released in 1996, is both the namesake and spiritual foundation for Deven Morgan’s podcast endeavor.
I can’t claim any amount of authority over Tribal or Do The Math other than what I’ve read — and heard — since starting this blog in earnest four and a half years ago. I will say, though, that Tribal’s brand of hip hop is the type to which I’ve always been most drawn in life. DTM is a Golden Era revivalist’s wet dream, created on the tail-end of that movement’s waning years* a time when rap music, it seemed, was less about singular identities and more about the movement. That’s fairly nebulous, I suppose, but so becomes history when the great windshield wiper of the mind blurs and distorts your recall over time. Thank the rap gods, then, that someone is committing these things to permanent record.
*Technically it’s post-Golden Era, but things arrive late in Seattle. So be it.
On Laws of Attraction Thaddeus David verges away from his heavy, trap-influenced sound to something a little gentler. Rapid high hats still abound, but behind a more supple backdrop. SAT Beats pushed all the buttons on this one.
Astro King Phoenix is a striving young rapper from the Town whose Prequel To The Glory can be a fairly engaging listen. Sci-fi philosophy and indirect pillow talk filter through producer Ike Watson’s polished, modern sounds. In fact, often it’s Watson who leaves the biggest impression: “Lost” and “Poison Ivy” have nicely-executed sample flips and Astro’s flow becomes secondary to the hazy, R&B-tinged beats.
Listening to Bolo Nef’s new Sol Invictus reminded me of taking one of those long, solo road trips. When the fatigue of navigating an endless stretch of highway in the dark gives way to your brain wandering off to those shadowy, Cimmerian mind states. When you find yourself contemplating the implications of, say, absolute nothingness, and all that stares back at you from the road is the yawning, silent void.
Bolo’s team of creative minions, Underworld Dust Funk (or UDF), specializes in this type of isolationist theory. Theirs is the chant of the alienated and nihilistic; the ethos of the creatures that live and move in the shadows — literally and figuratively — of Seattle’s sunnier hip hop side.
Bolo took me to task on Twitter the other day for reaching snap judgements of his UDF counterpart Caz Greez’s album Misfit. I called that record “cloud trap, promethazine slumber rap”. Fair enough, Bolo. Misfit is definitely more than that. I would contend, however, that Sol Invictus does a superior job of conveying UDF’s prime philosophies. Maybe that’s due to Bolo’s turnt down lyrical style — Caz’s three appearances lend a welcome dose of animation to SI.
Yes, Bolo documents Percocet and pill popping here also, but it scans heavily as self-medication rather than recreational use. Sol Invictus slumbers, half-sober, amid the sounds of a mother’s cries, muted sirens and the waning ping of a heart monitor. While some other ma’fuckas do it to death on world tours, UDF has enough issues just avoiding death around the next corner. It’s probably time to wake up to Bolo’s un-merry crew of illicit prescription revelers. The problem is, sometimes waking up is the scariest part.
Tacoma’s The Breaklites with a new album, I ♥ America. There’s been a growing buzz around this crew of party-focused South Sound rappers and it’s all deserved.
The Good Sin and guest Sean Carson party by the pool with a host of inanimate objects. And no I’m not talking about rap video models. These are actual inanimate objects. Been a minute since we’ve heard from Sinseer; nice to have him back in the mix. Download “Living Dreams”, here.
OC Notes let fly this massive collection (over 100!) of Rap Loops yesterday for your ears’ enjoyment. Practice your bar structure before that open mic night.
Malice and Mario Sweet dropped their new single “Celebration” on New Year’s Eve. I was too busy standing in line in the freezing outdoors for the opportunity to buy watered down drinks for $15 each. NYE in NYC is so glamorous.
Anyway… “Celebration” found its release on the most celebrated — okay, arguable — day of the year in America, but it also commemorated M&M’s five-year wedding anniversary. Congratulations to them! As someone who will be taking the plunge into nuptials (that sounds weird) this May, mad respect to Seattle’s favorite real-life R&B couple for reaching the half decade benchmark.
In advance of their show with Fly Moon Royalty tonight at Neumos, Fresh Espresso dropped this new track. “On!” swirls around like an electronic dust storm. It’ll sound great live, go see.
Well now that 206UP’s Best Seattle Hip Hop Albums of 2013 have made the rounds, we can get back to the regularly scheduled programming. If you missed my holier-than-thou lists and write-ups, scroll down for that shit or click here.
Hello, 2014. Nice to make your acquaintance. Here’s to another slew of quality Seattle rap over the next 363 days, beginning with Nacho Picasso’s new tape Trances With Wolves. I don’t know what this sounds like yet, but I’m hoping it features some Kevin Costner ad-libs ripped straight from the eponymous (not quite) movie. NP staying active even in the newborn belly of vingt-14.
Seattle rap fans are blessed with the greatest Christmas-themed hip hop album in history. Bold statement, but I defy you to find another! The Sta-Hi Brothers (Vitamin D and Maine) released their Chrismas Trees EP two years ago but it deserves revisiting every December 25th. You’ll never listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack the same again.
Download Chrismas Trees for free here, but don’t play it while grandma’s around.
Sabzi dropped this “albumixtape” in the inbox this morning as a little gift to the fans. Thanks, Saba! Seems like The Woods is a preview of what’s to come in 2014 from Made In Heights, his side project with vocalist Kelsey Bulkin — an unexpected and welcome surprise! Happy Holidays and stay warm, family.
In my eleventh hour push to cram for 206UP’s annual best-of list (dropping next week!), I realize there’s a grip of worthy music that I missed out on the first time it came around.
Triceracorn is one such example. Producer IG88 and rapper Beige (best MC name ever?) compose the duo responsible for October’s Porcelain, a 12 track collection of ambient hip hop, rich with brave sonic ideas and existential angst. Beige explores a host of topics from love to substance abuse, all tackled from oblique angles and through metaphorical oddities. The LP also features a couple of nice guest shots from Sandpeople’s boom-bap philosopher IAME and Hellfyre Club’s resident wordplay professor Open Mike Eagle. Porcelain makes for perfect headphone music on a cloud-covered day.
Finally got a chance to listen to Love Child, the MADlines x BeanOne collab. Hip hop meets reggae stylings to bombastic and highly danceable effect. I don’t recall Mad ever sounding this confident or dexterous on the mic, even in the golden years of Canary Sing, the other half of whom lends guest vocals on “I-R-I-E”. Love Child will warm up your winter.